Lizzie shares this review:
“Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…”
Fullmetal Alchemist is an amazing story so far.
The two main characters, Edward and Alphonse Elric, are really interesting. They both are very brave and caring. Neither of them would put someone’s life on the line on purpose. The major difference between the two brothers is that Edward becomes angry easily, while Al is more calm.
The main plot point is centered around Edward’s attempts to bring Alphonse back to his body. They are aiming to find the Philosopher’s Stone.
Altogether, I hope to read more of this series. I have really taken a liking to it.
Check the WRL catalog for Fullmetal Alchemist.
It’s Eva’s birthday and she is given a very special present…a magic box! Eva climbs inside. With the wave of her wand she pulls rabbits from hats, makes things float in the air, throws a fantastic party complete with delicious food, entertaining musicians and lots of dancing. But for her best trick of all she wishes for a pet named Monty and gets more than she bargained for.
I love this book because it reminds me of how much enjoyment my children always got out of a seemingly ordinary box. This simple story is rich with whimsical illustrations and celebrates the power of imagination. It is a perfect book to use in a birthday story time with a toddler group or to share one on one with your children at home.
Check the WRL catalog for Magic Box: A Magical Story.
Batman Week, Day 2. With our regular comics blogger off at Comic-Con, we implored librarian and geek culture goddess Jen to write about a favorite Batman story arc. This one comes from the library’s collection of graphic novels for adults. — Ed.
We librarians are not known for our poker faces. We’re bad liars. So what to do when a co-worker (yes, Melissa, I am pointing the finger at you) comes to you in desperate need of a blog post. And not just any blog post: would you be willing to write a Batman blog post? What she doesn’t know is that you have an entire storage box full of classic 1980s Batman comics. You hesitate, wondering if you can get away with the lie that you know zip about Batman. She waits. After a long pause, she whips out “that’s not a no!” And there you are. Stuck with the job.
Where do you start? There is just soooo much! You can’t go into your hidden stash and pick a comic. That could take weeks and she needs this thing stat. So I did what any smart librarian would do: I went to the stacks (bookcases for you regular folks out there). And —yay me! — found a true gem of the Batman universe.
Batman: The Killing Joke was written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. When you write about Batman comics you have to come to grips with the fact that many people over the years have not only told portions of his story, but many people have been tasked with drawing it. And in my mind these sometimes undervalued illustrators are just as important as the story’s writer. Actually, to be truly honest, I feel the illustrator is MORE important than the writer. Many a time I have picked up a story and put it right back down, left absolutely cold by the illustrations. I like realism in my graphic novel world. I don’t particularly care for comic-y looking illustrations, and I have a really, really hard time with jagged line artwork (not a huge Frank Miller/The Dark Knight Strikes Again fan.) Brian Bolland does a fine job and leaves it up to Alan Moore to hit the home run with his amazing story.
The story is absolute genius. We see how a normal man, hounded by the pressures of providing for his family and the continual failures at succeeding at his chosen job, yields to temptation and has “one bad day.” Interposed with the flashbacks that make up The Joker’s bad day, we see Commissioner Gordon’s “one bad day” as provided by none other than The Joker. The Joker seems bent on proving to himself and all others that what happened to him would happen to anybody. In looking at the story deeper, Moore has sprinkled it with parallels, and we get to see that Batman and The Joker are really two sides of the same coin. Both men are created from “one bad day,” and in some ways both are insane because of it. If you like Batman and you haven’t read this story yet, I highly recommend it. If you have read it, but it’s been a while, it might be time for a reread. And while you’re reading, see if you can spot the origin of one of DC’s most amazing heroes, Oracle. And while all librarians are super heroes… some of us take it to a whole new level!
Check the WRL catalog for Batman: The Killing Joke.
From fire trucks to race cars and from tractors to airplanes, this book is full of vehicles that every youngster will enjoy. In this problem solving gem, Leo Timmers creates characters dressed in clothes that match the vehicle they are driving. Each page has 4 four costumed animals and the reader is asked to guess “Who is driving the….?” The character is matched with the vehicle on the next page to reveal the answer. Sometimes it gets a little tricky, though, and you have to look really hard to figure out which ones coincide.
I’ve used this book for story time and it was a little bit too hard for my younger audiences but worked like a charm for Kindergarten. At home, one on one, you could get away with reading it to younger children. The story is simple enough that the kids can almost “read” it themselves. The illustrations are bold and colorful and full of detail making it a visually pleasing book that is sure to pass the test. Drive on over to the library and check it out!
Check the WRL catalog for Who Is Driving?
All week, Blogging for a Good Book honors Batman, who is celebrating his 75th anniversary this year. To lead off, Laura reviews a book that takes us back to the Caped Crusader’s early career as a detective. –Ed.
Since the basic premise of Batman is so well known, it can be reimagined countless ways and effectively applied to a wide range of storylines. In this version, Batman is not a lone crusader; he is merely the most recent member of a longstanding roster of familiar historical detectives, including Allan Pinkerton and Teddy Roosevelt.
The action begins with events that preceded the Lincoln assassination, which set loose a devious plot by an evil faction led by a southern gentleman who looks remarkably like the Joker. Like many comic bad guys, they are pinning their hopes on a remarkably intricate stratagem. This one might be a tad on the unbelievable side, even for a villain’s plan, since it will take 74 years to come to fruition.
The time lag brings the action into the modern day, which in this case is 1929. Poor little Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents and then gets sent off to boarding school for the next ten years. Fortuitously, his travels around the globe give him a chance to study a wide range of subjects, including criminology, oriental fighting techniques, and costume design, which are surprisingly useful for his later activities (although one can imagine the despair experienced by his school’s career counselor). His talents catch the eye of others, and he is quickly enlisted by the detective group. They are known to each other only by number, and as their most recent member, he is known as Detective #27. He has a lot to learn and not much time to do it, but at least he has, as always, the loyal Alfred by his side.
Will good triumph over evil? Or will the Joker’s minions rule the day? Find out next week…or just read the book. Recommended for graphic novel readers, historical fiction readers, and anyone who has spent time in Gotham and enjoyed it.
Search the WRL catalog for Batman: Detective No. 27.
Lily shares this review:
The sequel to The Goose Girl, Enna Burning is about a feisty, strong girl named Enna. She was one of the workers that Isi (Ani) lived with in her months of hiding, and since then their friendship has remained – even though Isi was returned to her rightful place as princess. Enna learns the lost language of fire, against Isi’s warnings, and begins to use her gift to scare away the enemy troops camped at Bayern’s borders…
Enna Burning is a story that proves that the best friendships endure and that you can never judge a book by its cover.
Check the WRL catalog for Enna Burning.
Is your glass half empty or half full? When life hands you lemons, do you make lemonade? And, can two friends overcome a series of unfavorable events when all they want to do is have a nice picnic together? Well, if you follow along with Rabbit and Mouse in Jeff Mack’s story, Good News, Bad News, having a good or bad time will all depend on your point of view.
“Good News, Bad News” is the only text throughout the story that relies on illustrations. Author/illustrator Jeff Mack brings together a wonderfully hilarious story of two friends and their reaction to and handling of life’s unexpected challenges. The illustrations are colorful and depict lots of action and expression. This in turn successfully emphasizes the characters’ comical predicaments and reactions as they try to enjoy a picnic.
Rain, wormy apples and a swarm of bees threaten. Learn how Rabbit and Mouse are able to reach a positive conclusion to their picnic day gone awry.
This story is well suited for children five and up as they would understand the humor in the illustrations more so than a younger child.
Check the WRL catalog for Good News, Bad News.
Jessica shares this review:
Given the multiple starred reviews of this realistic fiction read, I had fairly high expectations. And it didn’t disappoint.
Eleanor is an outsider who dresses strangely and is a target for bullying with her curly red hair, curvy build and freckles. Her home life is nothing short of a nightmare, and with no friends to turn to, Eleanor is completely alone. Park is well adjusted, and though a bit different with his Korean heritage, accepted. His parents are as in love as the day they met, and outside of getting his driver’s license, Park wants for little.
Needless to say, it’s not love at first sight. But Park’s inner kindness comes through, and he gives Eleanor the empty seat on the bus next to him. While the two remain silent at first, Park begins to notice Eleanor reading his comics through sideways, downcast glances. To his own surprise, Park starts bringing Eleanor comics to take home and read on her own. From that point on, a fairly unpredicted relationship begins to emerge. The comics progress to mix tapes and even more heart-turning, conversation. And all of a sudden, Park wonders how he didn’t fall head over heels for Eleanor the day she stepped on the bus.
With more in common than most, Eleanor and Park develop a strong bond that keeps them together through all the high and lows in Eleanor’s life. Unknowingly, Park provides Eleanor with an escape from her terrifying stepfather and secret home life. For once, Eleanor begins to feel safe and loved and cared for. But with so many factors in the works throughout the novel, something is bound to test their commitment and pull them in opposite directions. For two sixteen year olds, they show a remarkable level of depth and emotion. Rowell has truly managed to craft an imperfect love story that will leave readers with both smiles and tears. Even romantic skeptics will enjoy the push and pull and leave cheering on the unlikely couple.
Check the WRL catalog for Eleanor and Park.
Summer is a great time for a good mystery book. I always look for something with a bit of action, an interesting setting, and characters with whom you enjoy spending time. This is the sort of book I like to while away a lazy summer evening or weekend. Barbara Hambly’s A Free Man of Color, the first in her Benjamin January series, certainly fits the bill here.
Hambly’s protagonist, Benjamin January, the free man of color of the title, lives in New Orleans, where he teaches music and performs with an ensemble of mixed races. January is also a doctor by training, having studied as a surgeon in Paris, where he lived prior to returning to New Orleans after the death of his wife. January is a fascinating character, thoughtful and ethical, but with an understandable anger beneath the surface. Much of the tension in the stories comes as January walks the precarious racial lines of the city in the years before the Civil War.
Hambly ably portrays life in 1830s New Orleans, showing interactions among all levels of society, especially pointing out the distinctions between white, black, and colored, and she clearly depicts how New Orleans society is changing with the arrival of increasing numbers of Americans. In this first book in a superb series, January is drawn into solving the mystery of the murder of the colored mistress of a recently deceased plantation owner.
With its mix of history, mystery, and social commentary, Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series is a great summer read.
Check the catalog for A Free Man of Color
Also available in ebook format
In one of the first posts here at BFGB, I wrote about Bruce Alexander’s Sir John Fielding mystery series, set in 18th century London, and featuring the blind magistrate of the Bow Street Court, brother to novelist Henry Fielding. Alexander’s untimely death brought the series to an end in 2003, and so I was interested to recently come across a new series featuring Sir John in the library’s ebook collection.
Unlike the Alexander books, where Sir John Fielding is the primary character, Lake’s series focuses on John Rawlings, a young apothecary in London. In the first book in the series, Death in the Dark Walk, Rawlings initially comes under suspicion of murder when he comes across a body in the popular, and unruly, pleasure gardens at Vaux Hall. He is quickly cleared of wrongdoing though, and then assists Sir John Fielding in seeking out the actual murderer. Further titles in the series find Sir John calling on Rawlings’ assistance in a variety of cases across England.
Though lighter in tone than Bruce Alexander’s mysteries, Lake’s series is a pleasure to read, especially if you have an interest in 18th century England. The stories move easily from the upper ranks of society to the dark and seedy corners of London, and Lake has a good command of the language, social customs, and pastimes of the period. Lake introduces a number of fascinating secondary characters throughout the stories, both fictional and historical, including some romantic companions who complicate John Rawlings’ life, and make for fun reading. The characters are also developed in sometimes surprising ways over the course of the stories, which adds to the appeal of the series.
We have a number of the titles in the series in both our print and ebook collections, and you can get started here:
Check the WRL ebook collection for Deryn Lake’s John Rawlings series
Check the WRL catalog for the John Rawlings series
Children never seem to tire of Mo Willems’ Pigeon books and neither do their parents. In The Pigeon Need a Bath! readers can expect the same humorous antics for which the Pigeon stories are so beloved.
The story begins with the reader being introduced to the Bus Driver character from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. He informs the reader that the Pigeon needs a bath and he could use some help. As usual, the Pigeon has his own strong opinions and he announces that he doesn’t really need a bath. The Pigeon gives various arguments as to why he doesn’t need a bath. His points start out calm and rational, but he is, after all, the Pigeon. He eventually loses it as his strong convictions rapidly deteriorate. One comical point in particular is when the Pigeon questions the readers own cleanliness and their right to judge him.
Mo Willems’ illustrations are fun and are always successful in depicting the range of emotions that make the Pigeon so comical in his zeal to prove a point. It’s hard not to laugh as he whips himself into frenzy.
Readers are certain to enjoy the conclusion and the Pigeon’s comedy of errors when he discovers the truth about bathing.
Check the WRL catalog for The Pigeon Needs a Bath!
All readers know that there are times when it is hard to figure out what to read next. Authors and titles that appealed in the past have for some reason lost their sheen, and no longer seem of interest. These dry spells can be hard to break, and so we look for recommendations from friends, and we here at BFGB hope, from librarians. But there are also tools available to help readers find new authors and titles, based on what you have enjoyed in the past.
One set of tools that you can find at WRL is the Read On… series. In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I am the series editor, and have written one of the titles, Read On Crime Fiction, for the series. The idea of the Read On titles is to introduce readers to a broad sampling of the best titles and authors available in a given genre or subject area and to offer new directions to explore in those areas. The books are each arranged into five chapters, each covering a major area of appeal for readers–Character, Story, Setting, Mood/Tone, and Language. Within each chapter, there are lists of titles arranged around common interests. So if you are a fan of history about medieval lives or fantasy featuring epic quests, you will find a list of titles that you might enjoy. One way to use these books is to search the index for an author that you like and then see what lists that author appears in and look for other authors in that list that will appeal.
Titles in the Read On series cover most major genres as well as several nonfiction subject areas, and WRL has these titles in the circulating collection, so you can check them out to use at your leisure to develop some lists of new authors to try. If you are in a reading rut, take a look at some of the titles below, or stop by the reference desk and ask the librarian to help you find some new books, we are always happy to talk to readers.
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Audiobooks
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Crime Fiction
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Fantasy Fiction
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Graphic Novels
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Historical Fiction
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On History
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Horror
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Life Stories
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Science Fiction
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Speculative Fiction for Teens
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Sports
- Check the WRL catalog for Read On Women’s Fiction
Lizzie shares this review:
This manga follows the life of twins Yukio and Rin, who happen to be sons of the demon lord, Satan. Of the two, only Rin was cursed with Satan’s powers.
The plot begins with Rin learning that he is half demon. After this occurs, he decides that he will become an exorcist and defeat Satan since Satan killed his foster father. He follows his brother Yukio to True Cross Academy, which is where he will learn to become an exorcist.
The characters in this graphic novel have interesting personalities. Yukio, for example, is smart and shy, but is confident when he’s teaching his class. Rin acts goofy, but is serious when needed. So, each character has a personality that changes and is well-rounded.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this graphic novel very much, and I am hoping to read more like it.
Check the WRL catalog for Blue Exorcist.
I have written a number of posts about collected letters, see here, here, here, here, and here. So I have an obvious affection for letter-writing, and particularly for reading letters by authors whose books I enjoy reading. I find that their letters often give insights into their fiction, even if at the same time those letters display their all too human natures.
For those reasons, among other, I have been enjoying Distant Neighbors, a collection of letters between a favorite writer of mine, Wendell Berry, and a writer with whom I am much less familiar, poet Gary Snyder. The two writers began corresponding in the 1970s, through shared connections with a San Fransisco publisher, Jack Shoemaker. Berry and Snyder shared many interests, among them poetry and language, and the early letters frequently discuss the pair’s work and the quotidian details of a writer’s life.
As the friendship quickly deepened, and Snyder came to visit the Berrys on their Kentucky farm and Berry made the trip to the Snyder family homestead in the Sierra foothills, the letters begin to expand, exploring themes that will resonate for readers of both Snyder and Berry. Community, and its central role in society, religion in its varied expressions, connections between people and the land, and the resulting sorrow with the loss of that connection are all central to the ongoing discussion that these “distant neighbors” shared.
There is some humor here and some sadness, but mostly what is delightful about this book is to see two people who share many, though by no means all, beliefs discuss their common work and thoughts in a charitable and fruitful fashion. In today’s world, where angry voices and name calling seem to have replaced discourse, this is a good reminder of how things can and should be.
Check the WRL catalog for Distant Neighbors
Lily shares this review:
A twist on the classic fairy tale, The Goose Girl is about an unusually gifted princess who takes a long journey to an unknown country to meet her betrothed. On the way, mutiny arises within her guard. Before she knows it, Ani is running for her life with no one to protect her. She makes her way to Bayern, the country of her betrothed, only to find the rebels within her guard making themselves at home. In order to lay low she finds work as a goose girl and discovers a family in her fellow workers. Suddenly, word spreads that Bayern is to be at war with her home kingdom. Ani must face her fear of discovery and death to stop the massacre of her people.
This romantic adventure is a beautifully crafted story of betrayal, trust, and finding your own strength.
Check the WRL catalog for The Goose Girl
With rhyming text the reader is asked to guess what animal is being described. Additional clues are presented through the bright bold stripes of different jungle animals. The stripes for each animal are displayed on a flap that when lifted reveals the identity of the animal whose stripe is being depicted.
This is a fun interactive book that will appeal to children as young as 16 months to as old as five years of age. It can be a used as a tool to help children learn to identify animals by name and their unique patterns.
Though best of all, it’s just a great deal of fun for you and your little one to enjoy together.
Check the WRL catalog for Whose Stripes?
So (or hwaet if you prefer), you may be asking how many versions of Beowulf does one person really need to read (or review)? My answer would be at least one more. As he has been doing since his father’s death, Christopher Tolkien has brought out another previously unpublished work by his father, J. R. R. Tolkien. This time it is a translation of the great Anglo Saxon poem that J. R. R. Tolkien completed in 1926 but never thought to publish.
Tolkien’s translation is, perhaps, not as easy to read as Seamus Heaney’s more poetic version that I reviewed here. For one thing, Tolkien chose to write a prose translation rather than a metered one. The translation is by no means dry though. A scholar of Anglo Saxon, Tolkien has a feel for and a delight in the rolling rhythms of the story, and even in prose he captures that rhythm. His language and sentence structures will seem familiar in some ways to readers of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. There is a formal and almost archaic feel to some of the writing here that is mirrored in Tolkien’s own work, and he does not entirely abandon the alliterative approach that anchors Anglo Saxon poetry, viz. “great gobbets gorging down” as Grendel rends a Dane into dinner.
A welcome companion to the poem itself are excerpts from a series of lectures on Beowulf that J. R. R. Tolkien gave in the 1930s and that Christopher Tolkien has edited here as a commentary on the poem. In these lectures, the senior Tolkien discusses language, symbolism, and early poetry, helping to set his translation into time and place. Following the commentary are two short pieces that Tolkien wrote under the influence of the poem. “Sellic Spell” is a retelling of the possible mythical tale that would become Beowulf, and “The Lay of Beowulf” is Tolkien’s telling of the story in a rhymed ballad form.
Fans of Tolkien will definitely enjoy his translation of this classic poem, and readers interested in Anglo Saxon poetry will find Tolkien’s commentary of interest. While I prefer the poetic version of Beowulf created by Heaney, Tolkien’s translation is a worthy read and a fine addition to the Beowulf canon.
Check the WRL catalog for Beowulf
Melissa shares this review:
Teenager Lex Bartleby has gotten in trouble, serious trouble, more times than her parents can handle. As hard as it is for them, they send her to her Uncle Mort’s for the summer, hoping he can help her work out a better release for her destructive behavior.
Lex doesn’t understand why she’s so angry all the time, but nevertheless dreads the trip to her uncle’s. She’s prepared to hate every minute she’s away from her twin sister, Cordy.
It turns out, though, that Uncle Mort has experience with angry teens–in fact, he seeks troubled kids out for a pretty special job. Mort is a Grim Reaper, and he finds that kids with Lex’s issues make great apprentices.
Lex is surprised to find that she has a natural ability to quickly free the soul from the deceased–and for once in her life she has lots of friends who seem to understand her. As an added bonus, those wild urges to act out start to fade as soon as she starts working as a reaper.
When the Junior Grims notice a series of suspicious deaths, Lex and her partner Driggs, try to figure out what’s going on. It looks like someone has gone rogue and is killing off people whom he or she thinks deserve to die–murderers, liars, cheaters, etc.–which is something Lex has struggled with ever since her first day on the job. Why shouldn’t these bad people get punished for their deeds?
The book answers some questions, but definitely leaves enough open that you’ll have to read the sequel, Scorch. Thankfully, that book, too, is in the library collection.
The world-building and explanation of how the Grims collect and deliver souls to the Afterlife is fascinating. And the wide assortment of characters in the town make for interesting reading. The author writes with a nice mix of humor and action. I couldn’t help but turn the page to see what would happen next.
Check the WRL catalog for Croak
Check the WRL catalog for Scorch
In Alex Latimer’s Lion vs. Rabbit the jungle animals were tired of Lion bullying them! They tried hiring someone to handle Lion but Bear couldn’t and Moose couldn’t and Tiger couldn’t. Soon enough Bear, Moose and Tiger were on their way home having been defeated by Lion. Who could take on the bully king of the jungle? Rabbit arrives and soon Lion is wondering how this small creature can win at every contest. Rabbit uses his brain and a few surprises to show Lion that it’s no fun being a bully. I’ve read this book in many story times and it’s always a winner.
Check the WRL catalog for Lion vs Rabbit.
An evil and cruel plot involving small children. Alien animals such as the spider-like rat-snake or camel-like drom. Levitating cars. A secret underground rebellion. All these combine to make an intriguing science fiction world. Add in mystery, adventure, romance and action and Tankborn has it all.
Kayla 6982 is a GEN or Genetically Engineered Non-human who was created in a tank. She is the lowest level of the tightly controlled, rigidly stratified society on the planet Loka settled by survivors of a ravaged Earth. She grew up with an unrelated “nurture mother” and has no control over where she lives, her education, job, or life. She can be electrically reset (similar to being lobotomized) for the smallest infraction.
Despite her lowly status Kayla is happy living in the Chadi tenements with Tala, her kind but stern nurture mother and her mischievous nurture brother, Jal. But she knows her time there is short, because at the age of fifteen she will receive her Assignment which will determine her future work. Her best friend, Mishalla, has already been Assigned and they may never see each other again as GENs are not allowed to contact each other after they are Assigned. Kayla’s sket (skill set or genetically modified ability) is great arm strength, so she expects to be Assigned to manual labor.
To her surprise, Kayla is Assigned to assist an elderly high-status man, Zul. Before long, she learns that things are not what they seem. Kayla is strongly attracted to Zul’s great-grandson, handsome Devak, although she knows that romance between them is forbidden. The highborn family hide many secrets and Kayla must rethink her world and unlock the secrets because she, Mishalla, Devak, Zul and dozens of innocent children are in grave danger.
Try Tankborn if you like well-imagined dystopias featuring young protagonists like The Hunger Games or Divergent.
Check the WRL catalog for Tankborn.